There are some matters that are difficult to examine because there is an inherit paucity of information available to work with, and elder financial abuse is one of these. Though the numbers are hard to nail down with any certainty, one thing is known: elder financial abuse is a big problem in the United States, and it appears to be on the rise.
The MetLife Mature Market Institute does a good job of putting elder law issues under a microscope, and they tackled the issue of elder financial abuse recently. They started the study in 2008 and continued in 2010, releasing The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse: Crimes of Occasion, Desperation, and Predation Against America’s Elders.
Let’s define the three types of crimes they mention in the title of the study. Crimes of occasion are instances when the perpetrator sees an opening and seizes the opportunity to take advantage of a senior citizen on a one-time basis.
Crimes of desperation are usually perpetrated by family members and others who are close to the elder involved. The abuser may feel as though he or she is entitled to what is taken, or simply be desperate due to some type of dire financial circumstance.
Then there are the predators, those who proactively look for ways to extract financial resources from people who have reached an advanced age.
The MetLife study indicated that at least $2.9 billion was lost due to instances of elder financial abuse in 2010, and of course this is just an estimate. The true number may be much higher, especially in light of the fact that for every one case of elder financial abuse that is in fact reported to the appropriate authorities, five of them go unreported.
To find out what legal steps you can take to protect yourself from being a target, simply arrange for a consultation with a licensed elder law attorney.